Kelberman's Korner: 5 Most Overrated Broncos

Zack Kelberman

Welcome to Kelberman’s Korner, a weekly installment by Mile High Huddle senior columnist and Huddle Up Podcast co-host Zack Kelberman, where he tackles your questions —and, as your #FootballPriest, provides absolution — regarding the Denver Broncos.

Inspiration can strike at any moment. In this instance, it hit me while recording a recent podcast, as partner-in-crime Chad Jensen and I compiled a quick list of five underrated Broncos players heading into the 2020 campaign.

Huddle Up Podcast superstar Glenn Hauser commented that, "Next question should be the five most overrated," and the light bulb immediately went off. Ding!

It's a fairly difficult exercise considering Denver has such a young roster and, save for Von Miller, not many household NFL names. In order to be overrated, one has to be rated — and there aren't a lot of folks rating the Alexander Johnsons of the world. Not yet, anyway.

But it nonetheless is an exercise worth engaging as we attempt to trudge through the doggiest days of an unprecedently unique offseason.

Here you are, Glenn, in no particular order, the Group of Five overrated Broncos:

1. KJ Hamler | WR: Taking my contrarian hat off — I did, and still kind of do, question his second-round selection — Hamler makes the unenviable cut here through little fault of his own. The blame lies with fans who believe he's a day-one incarnation of Tyreek Hill and DeSean Jackson. Yes, the three share a speed commonality, but that's about as far as I'm willing to go mentioning them in the same breath. Hamler (5'9) is an inch shorter than both Hill and Jackson and not sure as sure-handed, dropping 12 catchable targets in 2019 alone. He's also a raw route-runner who struggles against press coverage, still learning the intricacies of the position. To be fair, the Penn State product is dynamically fast, incredibly agile, and will help Denver on offense and special teams. His short-term potential, however, is capped. Hamler may spend much of his rookie year as a decoy for Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, with the occasional grab, or drop, that leaves your mouth agape.

2. Ja'Waun James | RT: The Broncos handed out a then-record-setting $51 million contract (including $27 million guaranteed at signing) and all they got was this lousy T-shirt. James was limited to three games last season, registering 63 (!) offensive snaps, due to an MCL injury he was never quite right from. Context: He earned $79,365 for each snap. Not a great return on investment if you're John Elway. The former Dolphins first-round pick was known as a mentally-soft player before coming to the Mile High City, and James did nothing to extinguish that unflattering label. When healthy and motivated, he's an upper-echelon right tackle with youth (28) on his side. There's a concern, though, that James checked out after receiving his windfall, which, again, was only furthered by his "effort" in 2019. He, like the next man on this list, should be fighting for his future this season.

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3. Garett Bolles | LT: By sheer virtue of drawing the comical label of "most underrated Bronco," Bolles holds his place amongst the overrated. Why should a decent five-game stretch last season erase two-and-a-half years of utter incompetency? The answer: It shouldn't. I struggle to recall a fledgling first-round offensive tackle, let alone a blindside protector, whose subpar play is so easily rationalized away. "He hasn't had a decent quarterback!" "He's a slow learner!" "He has the physical talent!" "He isn't the worst player in the NFL!" Please. This might fly if Bolles was a mid-round investment or if he showed even a modicum of reliability. As the No. 20 overall choice, with the best line coach in the game, he's just bad for business. Don't take my word for it; there's a reason why Denver declined his fifth-year option and stuck him in an open competition with hobbled Elijah Wilkinson, a natural guard-turned-unnatural tackle unobjectively worse than Bolles, whose drum-beating hype video means absolutely nada.

4. Nick Vannett | TE: This seems like a random name to toss in, but hear me out. The Broncos curiously signed Vannett to serve as an in-line blocker, a sixth offensive lineman, if you will. Yet he wasn't all that good at his job last season, slapped with a paltry 25.1 pass-blocking grade, per Pro Football Focus, before the Seahawks unceremoniously shipped him to the Steelers. He finished as PFF's 65th-rated tight end out of 67 qualifiers (48.2 overall grade). Denver already had 10,394 TEs on the roster; Vannett was a head-scratching addition to the stable. Something tells me the $5.7 million they committed to a guy with 61 career receptions — a guy stuck firmly behind ex-first-rounder Noah Fant, a guy on his third team in five years, a guy who brings less to the table than Jeff Heuerman — could have been put to better use.

5. Melvin Gordon | RB: Until he proves me wrong, I'm perfectly content dying on this hill. $16 million ($13.5 million guaranteed) for a rival who has fewer 1,000-yard seasons than the homegrown incumbent, Phillip Lindsay, they refused to pay, and severely pissed off in the process, screams "reach" by a perpetually star-chasing front office. The Broncos view Gordon, who missed five games last year over a failed contract holdout, as a true three-down workhorse, using the former Charger's pass-catching ability to justify the designation. Excuse me if I'm not doing cartwheels over Gordon's career 4.0 yards-per-carry mark (Lindsay averages 4.9 YPC), 14 fumbles (Lindsay's never fumbled), and just one 16-game campaign under his belt (Lindsay completed a full season in 2019). Gordon has yet to congregate with his new teammates in Denver, whereas Lindsay is enjoying pitch-and-catch sessions with franchise quarterback Drew Lock. Pandemic aside, it's about want-to, and, for now, Gordon would rather clap back at radio personalities than hit the grass. But, hey, his presence alone flipped an alpha switch in Lindsay, who's determined to make the Broncos regret Gordon's signing. God help Elway if the $750,000 back outshines the league's seventh-highest paid rusher for 2020. Which is entirely possible — if not probable.

Follow Zack on Twitter @KelbermanNFL and @MileHighHuddle

Comments (20)
No. 1-11
Denver_guy
Denver_guy

Bolles gets crapped on daily. It’s comical you’d take the time to add him to this list just to throw more shade. He’s clearly not the most over rated

toddx7
toddx7

I would agree with Hamler and James mostly because both are over rated.
Hamler is a rookie and really needs to prove he can catch passes in the slot
in the pro game.

James injury history and huge contract constantly makes him a target. The
Broncos will be luck to get 8 games out of him this season.

Chilly303
Chilly303

Before Hamler's labeled what he is or isn't, we should wait to see him actually play. Predicting anything with him is a guess. Most Broncos fans compare his size, speed and potential impact to that of Jackson and Hill, and jt's legitimate. They're only an inch taller.

About Hill.... last season, he was targeted 89 times and had 58 catches. He wasn't catching passes as consistently as some believe.

Jamal. B
Jamal. B

This is stupid honestly kj hamler is faster that Henry ruggs last time I checked when jawuan james was healthy did not allow 1 sack and Melvin gordon is a touchdown calculator he had more touchdowns than lindsay and he played half a season you can say that he only had one 1,000 yards season that what makes them good Melvin scores touchdowns phillip get the yards

Dick Hanky
Dick Hanky

Yes on Vannett, stupid signing.

Broncos781
Broncos781

I understand choosing Hamler because of his size and dropped passes, but to say that he’s a raw route runner is just completely incorrect. Have you not seen his highlight reel cuts when he trains? Or Chad Ochocinco gush over how good of a route runner he is? He’s a top 3 separator in the entire class and his routes are a big part of that

Dubaitom
Dubaitom

There is a proper way to write and author critical analysis and there is that verbiage that insults and puts in displays ones immaturity and lack of respect for professionals doing their level best. If there was a competition, which there obviously isn’t in sports journalism, the author of this litany of disrespectful insults and ignorance regarding the team sport known as football and its players would surely lose and would receive similar negativity in feedback comments as he has levied herein. To judge Hamler before he sets one foot on the field this way, to insult Vannett in effort to fire a shot at Elway and to take personal potshots at Garrett Bolles is immature and frankly, unprofessional. Yes, Garrett needs to show more consistency but he has improved and it’s my guess Denver made a mistake not to pickup his fifth because now it will cost twice as much to retain him if he is consistent or to replace him with anyone of similar or better skills. To judge people in such an unprofessional manner, those people who are busting their tails and that are far better athletes than the authors who seem to take utter joy in pillaring people is simply uncalled for.

It would be a damn right sight to see all these online neophyte so called sports writers be judged by others in the same light and lack of decorum as this author did these players. Players know they will be judged but it should be respectful and not demeaning.

Jman75
Jman75

Always got the same axe to grind

Denverkewl
Denverkewl

I don't get why you can't be honest about Lindsay...yards yards yards is all you got and all he has - between the 20s and not on 3rd down and not in the red zone and leading the team in drops and crappy at pass routes -after a second year of coaching when he had to lead the position because Royce couldn't get it done either. We saw him kill drives on 3rd down. Just like we saw CHJ give them up. The O line was mid-ranked last year - so I don't wanna hear the O line BS. Every area Lindsay is weak in Gordon is strong - even Erick has said it so I am not alone. Your answer to everything or well he can get coached up. Fine, but he didn't show it last year and since when do we pay a guy who might get it done someday vs has got it done? Hell, I can say that about any player. You gripe about Huerman getting paid for his game but dismiss Lindsays shortcomings. Lindsay is one dimensional until proven otherwise - to use your phrase. You don't pay one dimensional dudes either - the D knows what the call is [or isn't] when he takes the field otherwise - you know this. I hope the kid balls out and really grows now...in the meantime we have the best backfield in the Division - mission accomplished.

Pondscums27
Pondscums27

Completely fine w/ the Gordon signing as he has cheap
On his shoulder as well with & will have to ball out as Lindsay (aka Mr. Pringles) is doing everything he can to prove he should be the #1 back and the hell I say pay him! Let’s have the deepest & expensive backfield while Lock & two of the possible our top 3 WR’s & our #1 TE are on the rookie contracts. I believe you can’t say Hamler as overrated when some HOF WR’s have literally said Denver did the most to match a Kansas City like offense with potentially 3 (#1 WR’s) can’t say a player is overrated when he hasn’t taken an offensive snap. How the hell is Bolles overrated when everyone bashes him (I right there with them as I’ve just was in complete shock with his performance) literally think he through that in just cause he didn’t agree with someone tagging him as the most underrated (which is wrong has well) should be tagged as the “x-factor” along with James for the Broncos to truly be AFC west contenders & playoff threat. If both Bolles & James dont live up to half of what their potential per being rd #1 draft picks then were in trouble so hope broncos country has a little more belief in the best offensive line coach in the game and not completely throw them those guys under the bus. I truly believe if Coach Munchak didn’t believe in these guys then we would’ve done more in free agency & the draft. Do believe we a diamond in the rough with Cushberry & have good depth with Wilkerson, Muti (underrated draft pick) & Morris could very well challenge Cushenberry for #1 center.

I do agree with TE being overatted and a waste of $5 million. I believe could’ve found a blocking TE for way cheaper in the draft or free agency. Hell should just signed another Tackle for that price to add competition and for goal line sets.

My top 5 overrated (#1TE Vernett, #2TE Heuerman,
#3MLB Davis / MLB Jewell (big fan of Johnson but worried about Davis & Jewell being able to play the major role On D,
#4 3rd CB (the 2nd outside corner spot is a major concern for me) Hopefull that one of these young guys can come through,
#5 OT James (but have hope he’ll live up to his potential)

RBA
RBA

Can't wait for the season to begin so that these poor sportswriters can have something real to write about. First it was months of their guessing who the Broncos would draft and arguing their picks. Totally useless waste of their time except that it gave the addicted fan something to read and argue about. Then a short window to report the draft but very soon they are forced to predict what each will add to the team and guess which will start and compete for a position. If those Democrat tyrants undermine the beginning of this season and fore us to undergo much more of this torment they will definitely have to be escorted from office.


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